Turkey's incursion in Syria leads to a spat between Turkey and Turkish Cyprus

A statement of Mustafa Akıncı, the president of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, criticising Turkey’s military offence in northeast Syria that was launched on Wednesday has ignited a full-blown spat between Turkish Cypriot government and Ankara.

Accusing Turkey of waging a war in northeast Syria by its military incursion dubbed Operation Peace Spring, the Turkish Cypriot leader said the naming of the offence was reminiscent of Turkey’s military intervention to Cyprus in 1974.

"Even though we called the offensive in 1974 Operation Peace, it was a war and blood was spilt,” Akıncı said referring to of Turkey's invasion of Cyprus in 1974 to oppose a Greek nationalist coup that aimed to unite the island with mainland Greece.

Cyprus is split between the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus following the invasion of Turkey, which has since maintained a military presence in the northern part of the island. 

“Now, even if we say Operation Peace Spring, what is being spilled is not water, it is blood. For this reason, it is my greatest wish that dialogue and diplomacy come into play as soon as possible," Akıncı said on social media.

Akıncı said he always wanted the best for Turkey and elimination of the country's terror problem, adding that peace would not come with another bloodshed nevertheless.

"I think a happy and peaceful future for Turkey is only possible with building dialogue between all peoples of the region, including Turks, Kurds, Arabs and Turkomans, he said.

Akıncı said he had lost his friends like many others during 1974's offensive and learned what the war means by experience.

“Therefore, I do not want any society to experience the suffering of war. I can not desire any Turkish-Kurdish-Arab child to even have a nosebleed."

The Turkish Cypriot president’s statement sparked fury in Ankara, which maintains that Turkey’s offensive is not a war but an operation against terrorists.

Turkey sees the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has been fighting inside Turkey for more than three decades, and thus argues that Kurdish-controlled territories in northeast Syria pose a threat to its national security.

"The Cyprus Operation Peace was an operation against a murder network and it established peace. Operation Peace Spring is also the fight against terrorism we carry out against a murder network," the spokesman for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Ömer Çelik said on Twitter.

Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay also slammed Akıncı's remarks. Oktay said Akıncı's statements did not represent Turkish Cypriots' views and Turkey is conducting a "righteous" struggle against terrorism.

"The statement made by Akıncı as a President today is lacking history awareness and knowledge. I believe that this unfortunate statement does not reflect the opinion of the Turkish Cypriots," Oktay said.